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Get Over the Wall as a First-Year Nurse

Get Over the Wall as a First-Year Nurse

Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer

Surviving your first year as a nurse will likely be one of the biggest challenges you will face in your career. Almost universally, first-year nurses have days, weeks or months when they feel overwhelmed, inadequate, disillusioned, stressed out or all of the above. If you’re thinking, “Was I really cut out for this job?” these tips can help you get through your first year as a nurse with your sanity, confidence and love of the profession intact.

Accept Your Limitations (and Keep Your Ego in Check)

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Nursing school can often leave new nurses with unrealistic expectations. “A lot of us nurses are Type A, brainy people who were used to getting good grades in nursing school,” says Ashley Flynn, who has been an RN in a surgical unit at Children’s Hospital Boston since late 2006. “Nursing school is so hard that when you graduate, you think you know what you’re doing.” However, you won’t know everything all the time, but that doesn’t make you a bad nurse, she says.

Don’t Try to Do It All

Likewise, new nurses must come to terms with the fact that they may not be able to accomplish everything on their to-do lists everyday. “There were days I ran rampant and didn’t eat lunch until 3 in the afternoon, and I left crazy and felt like I wasn’t doing a good job,” Flynn says. That’s when her preceptor would have her write out what she needed to do herself, what she could delegate and what she could leave to the next shift. “You have to learn to accept that nursing is a 24/7 job, and you’re only there for 12 hours at a time,” Flynn says. “There’s always going to be something that you can’t be there for or that you can’t get done. You have to rely on a lot of other people.”

Ask for Help

Good nurses – whether newcomers or seasoned veterans – know when to call in reinforcements. For Andrea Kuehn, who has been an RN in the hematology-oncology unit at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis since March 2007, that means asking doctors and more experienced nurses lots of questions. “I’m never scared to ask questions, and I don’t care if I’m getting on someone’s nerves,” she says. “[My] patients’ quality of care [is] at stake.”

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  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 1 year ago

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  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    I am glad there is a place for nurses to express their thoughts and feelings and get support from others. I am starting my first RN job in a week. I have heard from other nurses that one's first year on the job is when new nurses learn the most. It seems that Nursing school lays the foundation of knowledge and skill, but the real learning happens on the job as new experiences present themselves. I believe we will never be fully prepared ahead of time for what we are about to be challenged with, I just hope I can find enough calmness within myself in the midst of the storm to ask the right questions and partner with the resourses available to me to get through each situation. I think of the term "grace under fire" and hope that I can take it all in stride. Great article and comments from others. Thanks!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 6 years ago


    I could not agree more ! I started out on a large ICU and got "thrown to the wolves"! Not only was it scary, frustrating, ego-busting, humbling, etc. but DANGEROUS to patient care! Amazingly, this seems to be "standard" for new nurses across the board, regardless of unit, hospital, area of the country, etc.!!! This is crazy! What can we do about this? As was already mentioned, much of it has to do w/ short-staffing, etc. Even the "nice", helpful vetern nurses are swamped w/ their own assignments and have little time to mentor once orientation is over.
    I too went home crying and feeling totally depressed, and inept most nights; and have left the ICU for now.
    I'm very disillusioned, as this is a "second career" and one I feel "called" to do. I'm just praying I can find the right "fit" for me. Like others have said, it IS comforting to now I/we are not alone; but it's still very difficult to deal with! I wish everyone the best; hang in there!! :)

  • Wiyuna1_max50


    over 6 years ago


    good tips for me ^_^

  • Stephs_wedding2_max50


    over 6 years ago


    I have been a nurse for 10 months now. I have had the ups and downs and I am happy where I am. I work on a women/children's unit. For the most part it's a good place to work. I was stuck with a few patients that I never should have had as a new nurse and that was aggravating. The scariest thing for me was after 3 months (as a nurse and this was my first job) I had to work the floor alone. I was the only nurse for 8 patients with one tech and a unit secretary. I was also getting screwed over by one of the night nurses. I got orders to DC at patient home at 1840 while I was giving her report on that patient and she made me do all of the paperwork and DC the patient. I stayed an hour over for that. I didn't know any better then; I do now. I thought as long as I got the order on my shift then I had to carry out the order. She let me go right on believing that for a couple of months until one of the nurses from the other day shift (not the one that I work with) told me what was going on.

  • Cow_picture_max50


    over 6 years ago


    Great survival tips, Cant wait to be a Nurse!!

  • 1024963740_m_max50


    over 6 years ago


    Let me just say Amen! Glad to know we all go through pretty much the same feelings and doubts and it will get better.

  • 006_max50


    over 6 years ago


    This article came at exactly the right time for me. I work on a transplant ICU that is a new unit, so it is mostly new RNs; and I just got off of a 16 week orientation after graduating in May and passing my boards in July. I feel overwhelmed on a daily basis, and have left work basically in tears the last 3 weeks, just feeling like I am not doing a very good job. It is extremely hard being part of a new unit opening; at times having very high acuity patients, then the next week having med-surg patients. Last night was the first night in at least two weeks I have left not in tears... I had a very sick patient that I actually took care of and just had reassurance from a couple of other nurses that I was doing a good job. Thanks for the article, and the hope that one day it will get better even if at times we still have that feeling of being overwhelmed at times!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 6 years ago


    I 100% agree with Ron. I also started in July. I work in the NICU level III. I thought that I was ready for that next level because I felt confident in my level II work. I was wrong. The things that I loved about the NICU were not there in the more critical NICU. I have a hard time accepting that and now I am trying a couple of other units and hopefully finding my right fit. I am stressed, frustrated, and pretty sad on a regular basis. It's really hard to fill good about your decision when you feel that way all the time. I thought the article was good, did it help, sort of. I have heard it before but I think that it helps to hear it more and from a lot more people. It just shows that even though you might feel alone regarding your thoughts and frustrations, you really aren't alone!! If anything that helps a lot. C. RN

  • Dsc_0849_max50


    over 6 years ago


    This was a very good article. I am a new nurse. I graduated in May 2008, started on the floor in July, and I have been on my own for a little over a month. I work on a Telemetry / Stepdown Unit, and I am looking for another job. I feel all the stress, frustration, and feelings of being inadequate on a daily basis. I have honestly been somewhat frightened that I may ever find a place where I don't dread going to work. This article validates my feelings further and makes me realize that what I am going through is normal. Thanks, Ron. RN.

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